Education is a Life | Principles #8-11

In today’s episode I’m talking about the next few principles of Charlotte Mason’s Twenty Principles. The eighth principle is the third instrument of education; “Education is a life.” Today we discuss what this instrument of education means, and how we can apply it in our own homes.


Principle #8: “In saying that “education is a life” the need of intellectual and moral as well as of physical sustenance is implied. The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.”

Principle #9: “We hold that the child’s mind is no mere sac to hold ideas; but is rather, if the figure may be allowed, a spiritual organism, with an appetite for all knowledge. This is its proper diet, with which it is prepared to deal; and which it can digest and assimilate as the body does foodstuffs.”

Principle #10: Such a doctrine as e.g. the Herbartian, that the mind is a receptacle, lays the stress of education (the preparation of knowledge in enticing morsels duly ordered) upon the teacher. Children taught on this principle are in danger of receiving much teaching with little knowledge; and the teacher’s axiom is ,’what a child learns matters less than how he learns it.’

Principle #11: But we, believing that the normal child has powers of mind which fit him to deal with all knowledge proper to him, give him a full and generous curriculum; taking care only that all knowledge offered him is vital, that is, that facts are not presented without their informing ideas. Out of this conception comes our principle that,–

Leading Thoughts

  1. If the child’s mind is a living organism that needs nourishment, we need to figure out what “feeds” the mind.
  2. Steer clear of dry textbooks – only teach through living ideas.
  3. There are habits of body and habits of mind.
  4. We don’t need to digest ideas for our children.
  5. Children are capable of sorting, arranging, selecting, rejecting, classifying their own ideas.

Listen to the podcast above to hear more!


“One of our presumptuous sins in this connection is that we offer opinions to children (and to older persons) instead of ideas” (A Philosophy of Education, p. 110).

“we know that food is to the body what fuel is to the steam-engine, the sole source of energy; once we realize that the mind too works only as it is fed education will appear to us in a new light” (A Philosophy of Education, p. 105)

“…but an idea clothed up on with fact, history, and story, so that the mind may perform the acts of selection and inception from a mass of illustrative details” (A Philosophy of Education, p. 111).

“…all I have said is meant to enforce the fact that much and varied humane reading, as well as human though expressed in the forms of art, is not a luxury, a tit-bit, to be given to children now and then, but their very bread of life, which they must have in abundant portions and at regular periods” (A Philosophy of Education, p. 111).


A Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason (pages 104-127)

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I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Charlotte Mason Motherhood podcast. Thank you so much for listening!

  1. Mason, Charlotte. Home Education. Simply Charlotte Mason, LLC, 2017.
  2. Mason, Charlotte. A Philosophy of Education. Simply Charlotte Mason, LLC. 2017.

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